I know I come across as open. Few defenses. Willing to discuss my bowel habits and my sadness with tens of thousands of strangers. But I’ve had to realise lately that this brazen openness is actually a defense. A boring one. For me, anyway.

by Sarah Hermans

Do you tend to point out your faults loudly when you’re nervous? Because you figure it’s better to get in first, before someone points them out for you? Yeah. Me too. Openess can be like that. It works like this: Before you challenge me on my boundaries, before you hold a mirror up to my intimacy issues, how about I barrage you with my brazeness, then you won’t have a leg to stand on!

Well, this approach has kind of got stale lately. It’s not serving me too well. When I do it now I cringe.

As it happens I read on DailyOm last week a little metaphor about trees shedding their bark. It’s fitting:

Trees grow wider with each passing year. As they do, they shed the bark that served to protect them but now is no longer big enough to contain them. In the same way, we create boundaries and develop defenses to protect ourselves and then, at a certain point, we outgrow them. If we don’t allow ourselves to shed our protective layer, we can’t expand to our full potential.

Perfect!! So true! Of course boundaries and defenses serve a purpose: Trees need their protective bark to enable the delicate process of growth and renewal to unfold without threat. Likewise, we need our boundaries and defenses so that the more vulnerable parts of ourselves can safely heal and unfold.

But here’s the kicker:

our growth also depends upon our ability to soften, loosen, and shed boundaries and defenses we no longer need.

This, I guess we have to do ourselves. Trees just do it naturally. We have to shed to be able to expand and grow. The first stage with this kind of stuff is always to feel that cringe…that eughhhh! feeling. This means the bark is getting gnarly and tight. And we’re ready to shed.

Actually shedding is more difficult. I think it occurs a little like it does for the tree – as we grow, expand our thinking/consciousness – it just drops off.

I like this analogy because it posits our defenses as necessary. To a point. This makes the shedding process easier. We don’t have to berate ourselves for being defensive…just glad we’re now mature enough to move on from it.

Of course, shedding means standing there naked for a bit. Bigger, expanded. But naked. Until the new bark grows around us. I want my new bark to be less rigid, more stretchy and truly transparent. You?

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